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Improving mogul operation by using fibreglass starch trays.

Improving Mogul Operation by Using Fibreglass Starch Trays

Confectionery operations that include a starch mogul operation are highly dependent on the starch trays for a successful operation.

Traditionally, these were of wooden construction made by many different manufacturers, even internally in some cases. Construction therefore varied widely with hard wood, soft wood, plywood and pressboard, all common in various installations.

Originally, nails, wire brads or metallic fasteners were used in the assembly of these units. This practice, for the most part, disappeared because of the potential contamination from loosened metallic fasteners ending up in the finished product. In spite of the relatively low cost, wooden trays had some distinct disadvantages. Wooden trays are fabricated with many components. Typically five pieces is the minimum required - the ends where stacking takes place, the side rails and the bottom. At each of the junctions there is a seam which has potential as a bacteria trap or foothold for other contamination.

Washing is almost impossible due to the raw nature of the wood. In addition, wooden trays are greatly affected by humidity, which is always present in starch operations and, therefore, are less dimensionally stable than is desirable. Warping is all too common with wooden trays, which also have a tendency to splinter during use, especially as the trays become old. The life of wooden starch trays varies widely with the application but breakage is common.

One of the first attempts to resolve some of these problems was the introduction of a thermoplastic starch tray. This was moulded in one piece, thus eliminating the seam problems. Also it provided a dimensionally consistent product as delivered but the design and structure left a lot to be desired, partly due to the nature of thermoplastic materials.

Many of the processors found that creep, which is present in most thermoplastics, gradually warped the trays to a point where they were no longer usable. This was especially true because of the environment in the drying rooms. Any elevated temperature accelerated the creep characteristics and caused the trays to sag longitudinally.

In order to minimise the cost of these products, the ends and sidewalls were hollowed out, resulting in a relatively thin wall in the areas where the mechanical actions took place. As a result of this and the fact that thermoplastics in general tend to lose their properties during ageing and exposure to UV light, chipping of the trays became all to evident. The chips, generally in the area of the pushers or stacker mechanism, resulted in pieces of tray being mixed in with the product.

Molded Fiber Glass Tray Co developed a thermoset fibreglass reinforced tray in October 1972. These trays were also one piece construction, eliminating any seams, had a much higher stiffness than thermoplastic trays and wood, and eliminated the creep problem as thermoset plastics are relatively insensitive to the temperatures they are exposed to in a normal starch operation.

The initial starch trays, developed by Molded Fiber Glass Tray Co, while very successful, had very slow sales growth. Real volume use began mainly as a result of desire internally with the confectionery companies, primarily in the quality control and engineering departments, to minimise problems with wood splinter contamination in the final product. These were often companies producing high volumes of products who, therefore, had systems operating at relatively fast speeds. In some cases, there was considerable pressure by health officials in reducing or eliminating the use of wood products in direct food contact. Fibreglass starch trays can be cleaned and washed easily and can be used in heated pressure washers to be restored to their original condition and are completely unaffected by this type of cleaning. The exterior surfaces of the trays are extremely smooth to assist cleaning while the interior has a matt finish to hold starch in place.

MFG starch trays are dimensionally stable and of a constant size, not only as delivered but throughout their service life, and this fact allowed manufacturers to increase the speed of their machines substantially, improving productivity and reducing cost. Replacement of starch trays is extremely low, as a jam that would usually damage a wooden tray beyond repair does not damage the fibreglass trays which can usually be recovered intact. In such cases, the swift triggering of safety clutches prevents run-on and possible loss of synchronization.

Because there are many types of mogul machines in use in the industry - Nationals, NIDs, Winkler, Makat - it became necessary, in order to service this market, for MFG to develop a number of trays, not only in various sizes but also configurations, to meet the requirements of the various candy manufacturers.

Many of MFG's trays are designed to interstack with existing wooden trays so they can replace wooden trays on a scheduled replacement programme rather than require a large initial investment to replace all the trays at one time.

The success of fibreglass starch trays, especially in the United States, has resulted in the wooden tray business undergoing considerable change. Where wooden trays were often even made internally in the confectionery plant, now special manufacturers are producing a tray of much higher quality than was in use years ago. Wooden trays still have a cost advantage over fibreglass on initial purchase cost only. The longer life of fibreglass trays usually makes them more cost effective long term. (One customer alone saves as much as $200,000 a year in breakage by using fibreglass reinforced starch trays.)

While the wooden tray is lighter than the fibreglass tray, automatic handling of trays now in prevalent use in the industry makes this of limited concern. However, Molded Fiber Glass Tray has developed special formulations that will reduce the weight by approximately 30 percent, which are available for operations requiring manual handling.

The proponents of wooden trays make claims to the assumption that moisture absorbed by the wood accelerates the drying of candy. Whilst it certainly is true that a dried wood tray would absorb moisture when first put into service, after the initial drying cycle its moisture content would stabilize and be unlikely to change from the level. Usually, the short duration of time the modern moguls have the trays outside the drying rooms leaves no time for drying.

While the term 'fibreglass tray' has been used in this article, we must point out that the fibreglass content of the trays is approximately 25 percent, another 25 percent being a thermoset resin, with the balance being inert additives that are added. What is more, the fibres themselves are not the sharp, semi rigid fibres associated with insulation materials. They are, in fact, as soft as cotton and totally trapped within the thermoset resin. There can never be, therefore, 'loose fibres' in the same way as there are splinters of wood. All the materials in MFG trays are NSF approved and meet the criteria of Section 21 of the Federal Register (FDA) regarding food additives. Represented in the UK and Europe by

Food Handling Systems Ltd of Lion House, Petersfield Avenue, Slough, Berks, tel: 0753 822171 are the representatives in the UK and Europe for Molded Fibre Glass Tray Co.

PHOTO : Typical starch trays from MFG
COPYRIGHT 1991 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:thermoplastic trays from Molded Fiber Glass Tray Co.
Author:Mollman, Robert E.; Woods, Bernie
Publication:Food Trade Review
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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